Monthly Archives: May 2014

Stuck In Depression

We see those people around us personally on a regular basis who are dressed in their finest clothes, their kids seem perfect, they seem to always have smiles on their faces, and you’ve never have heard a cross word shared between them in public. By all practical purposes you see them as “perfect” and “all together.” But this is not the real world. You don’t know what happened last night, last week or last month. We see people on Sunday morning and wonder if we are the only ones who are struggling. Reality is the church is made up of people who are recovering alcoholics, recovering drug users, people who were unfaithful to their spouse, women who have had abortions, people who are self-righteous, etc. Basically, the church is full of “messed up” people! People with a past that God wants to redeem so He can reclaim them for the future. There are people with us today who God has healed and some who are in the process of healing.

We all get stuck at times in struggles like marriage issues, bitterness, money problems, discouragement, etc. “Stuck” means to get caught or held in a position so that you cannot move. Physically it is situations like mud and traffic. In life it is in situations like dealing with marriage, bitterness, money, deception, etc. To get traction in these situations is to get unstuck, to have movement and experience forward progress. You can’t move forward with God if you have not dealt with the places where you get stuck. You can’t grow in Christ if you don’t know how to deal with your failures and places where you lose traction. Our tendency is to romanticize Biblical characters and to make them bigger than life. But reality is they were real people with real life issues just like us. And the beauty of the Bible is God gives us a glimpse into it all . . . the good, the bad, and the ugly!

A good man or woman can get to a very bad place. We are going to see one of God’s best today who found himself in a very dark, bad place. The truth is it is okay to not be okay, but God and the Gospel doesn’t leave you there. Jeremiah was the most quoted prophet by Jesus. He served with great loyalty but he had a bad season and found himself in a bad place. He was disappointed, downcast and depressed! When you look at the Psalmists, you see some strong believers who had dark moments and were going through dark times. Some other prominent figures in the Bible like Elijah, Moses, and Jonah had their battles with depression. Historical figures like Winston Churchill had a lifelong battle with depression. One of the most prominent figures in Church history, Charles Spurgeon had his own battles with depression. Sometimes we have the false assumption that if we do God’s will, we will be healthy, wealthy and loved by everybody. That might sell books or pack out a building but it simply isn’t true! Faithfulness to God often brings suffering, trial and disappointment. When things are going bad we can assume it’s because we have sinned against God. But sometimes things are not so good, and even bad, because we are being faithful to God. Faithfulness to God cuts against the grain of this sinful, broken world. So we can expect opposition even from people we wouldn’t normally expect it from.

When the topic of depression is brought up, there is a debate among Christians about the cause and cure of depression. Some take a hyper-spiritual approach and say it is all because of sin and no other reason. Some on the other hand say it is entirely a medical condition that has no relation to our behavior and choices. The truth is . . . some depression is definitely medical and much of depression is spiritual! But whatever the cause we shouldn’t judge anybody who is battling depression. One of the worst cases you will ever read or reference to in the Bible is Jeremiah. He is the most quoted prophet, he was loyal, but he was also depressed. His book reads like a diary with very intimate thoughts and conversations with God. How would you feel if every conversation you had with someone or every prayer you ever prayed was made public? Would you be embarrassed or would you be a little uncomfortable? God’s Word is so powerful because it gives us glimpses into the private world of the apostles, disciples and prophets. In the book of Jeremiah we get to see the prophet’s most intimate of thoughts, rants, and struggles. Jeremiah was God’s prophet and he prophesied from the 620’s-580’s B.C. He told the people a very tough message about the impending disaster of the Babylonian army conquering Judah and taking them captive. And that all this was God’s way of disciplining His people.

Jeremiah’s message was “doom and gloom”, while other prophets like Zephaniah and Habakkuk were given the task of preaching messages of peace and good king reforms. At one point it’s like Jeremiah is saying, “Why me? Why am I the one who You called to do this?”  “7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.” (Jeremiah 20:7-10).

Depression can potentially hit any of us. There are several dangerous times when depression might come at you. One of those dangerous times is When You Are Physically Depleted. At the beginning of Jeremiah 20, this priest named Passhur heard what Jeremiah was prophesying and he beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks. Jeremiah is down . . . way down. He has been faithful to God to prophesy to His people and all he is receiving is torture, ridicule and punishment. The story of Jeremiah lets us know that even the most faithful of Christ-followers can become discouraged. Moses as we mentioned earlier who was hit with depression when he was physically exhausted. Elijah was hit with depression when he was fasting and running. Jonah was depressed after a long journey in the belly of the fish and a long revival that he didn’t want to preach. You’re not just a soul; you’re a soul united and clothed in a body. If you are not eating well, if you are not sleeping right, if the pressure is rising, and you are about to red-line and about to crash it will affect your emotional and mental health. You are body, soul and mind intertwined and working together. Think about your children . . . too much activity and not enough sleep will almost always give you cranky children. If they skip their nap they might have a meltdown at night. Adults are the same way . . . too much activity and not enough rest will produce cranky adults. Sometimes you don’t need another prayer or another sermon. All you need is a nap (but not right now), a weekend away, etc. Another one of those dangerous times when depression might hit you is When You Are Emotionally Disappointed. “O Lord, you have deceived me . . .” (Jeremiah 20:7).

“Deceived” (Jeremiah 20:7) means “enticed, seduced, tricked.” “I’ve preached Your truth for twenty years and gotten no response. The only thing they have given be is scorn, torture and ridicule.” “Prevailed” (Jeremiah 20:7) means “overpowered.” He was telling God that He had forced him to do what he was doing. He also told God that because of Him, he had become a “laughingstock” (Jeremiah 20:7) among the people. Everybody was making sport of him, ridiculing him and accusing him of being a false prophet. They did laugh at him and they did mock him because they did not believe that God would punish them like he said. But God had not deceived him or seduced him. God warned him up front what would happen. “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:19). Things in our lives that would be similar to Jeremiah’s feelings would be things like . . . You marry someone in faith and your marriage fell apart . . . You raise your kids in faith and they rebel and turn into prodigals . . . You tithed and honored God with your finances and your business tanked . . . You went to seminary to further your education and you have no church . . . etc. Disappointment lasts a few days but when discouragement and depression attacks it lasts much longer. Another dangerous time when depression might hit you is When You Are Spiritually Depressed.  Jeremiah hadn’t just had a bad day or a bad week. He was having a bad season! He found himself conflicted. There was the outside pressure of people and the inside pressure of God’s Word and God’s call.  At this point in his life he felt like he just couldn’t win. People would seeing him on the street and they would say, “There goes ole’ Death and Destruction.” People would talk about him behind his back and the men would gossip about him at the gates. He felt betrayed even by those closest to him. He says it was even his “close friends.” (Jeremiah 20:10) saying all these things. The people closest to him were the worst ones coming against him and not supporting him. Those are times when depression can hit but when it does hit how do we get unstuck from depression?

We have to look past the moment and Trust That God Is At Work. “But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 20:11). At one point Jeremiah thought God had left town but he slowly found a principle that we must realize. Just because God is not working like you expect Him to doesn’t mean He is not at work! Think about Jesus bringing salvation to all of us on the cross. God used Jesus as the Lamb of God, the sacrificial Lamb, the humble Servant to conquer sin and death for us all. God used what didn’t make sense to many to bring salvation to all of us. We must be willing to embrace the truth that God is not AWOL or asleep at the wheel. Even when you cannot feel Him or understand what He is doing, God has not abandoned you. The harder the trial, the closer He moves toward you. Another way to get unstuck from depression is to Talk To God Honestly. Don’t ever be afraid of telling God exactly how you feel. The Bible is great because within its pages, God doesn’t just show us all the “fuzzy feel goods.” He lets us see honesty and the “down and dirty.” He lets us see their faults. He gives us an inside look at His people ranting and raving at Him. What if your most private conversations and intimate prayers were revealed for all the world to read? How would you feel? Jeremiah 20 is a glimpse into him venting his frustration to God. He isn’t talking about God; He is talking to God. It is one of those intimate times that was not written as prose; but his prayer recorded like you would in a journal. What you must realize is God is a big God! He can handle your doubts and questions. We are trained from an early age to not question God and to think that questioning is not a good thing.

But think about it . . . the only way a child learns is by questioning. All the “why’s, what’s and how’s” are the essence of learning. Real faith grows in the soil of questioning! Questioning when you are genuinely seeking answers is a good thing. Don’t shy away or be embarrassed about those times. Embrace those times and grow from them. Another way to get unstuck from depression is to Talk To Yourself Firmly. Jeremiah starts to reclaim the promises God had made to him. He remembers that “God is with him” and “He does deliver.” Like in Psalm 42 when the psalmist starts asking himself questions and then answers his own questions. “5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” (Psalm 42:5-6). You must constantly remind yourself of some key things . . . Who God is . . .What God has done . . . What God has promised to do. You must preach the sufficiency of Christ to yourself . . . That you are loved by God, Christ died in your place and His Spirit lives in you! Where are you at right now? Are you in one of those “danger zones?” . . . Are you physically depleted? Are you emotionally disappointed? Are you spiritually depressed?